How is cervical cancer treated?

How is cervical cancer treated?

The cervical cancer treatment team includes a gynecologic oncologist (a doctor who specializes in cancers of female reproductive organs). Recommended treatment for cervical cancer is based on many factors including the stage of the disease, your age and general health, and if you want children in the future.

The treatments for cervical cancer are radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.


Radiation therapy uses energy beams to kill cancer cells on your cervix. There are two types of radiation therapy:

  • External beam radiation (EBRT): Aims high-powered radiation at cancer from a machine outside your body.
  • Brachytherapy: Puts the radiation in or just near cancer.


Chemotherapy (chemo) uses drugs that are injected through your veins or taken by mouth to kill cancer cells. It enters your blood and is effective for killing cells anywhere in your body. There are several drugs used for chemo and they can be combined. Chemo is often given in cycles. The length of the cycle and the schedule or frequency of chemotherapy varies depending on the drug used and where cancer is located.


Different kinds of surgery are used to treat cervical cancer. Some of the most common kinds of surgery for cervical cancer include:

  • Laser surgery: This surgery uses a laser beam to burn off cancer cells.
  • Cryosurgery: This surgery freezes cancer cells.
  • Cone biopsy: A surgery in which a cone-shaped piece of tissue is removed from your cervix.
  • Simple hysterectomy: This surgery involves the removal of your uterus but not the tissue next to your uterus. Your vagina and pelvic lymph nodes aren't removed.
  • Radical hysterectomy with pelvic lymph node dissection: With this surgery, your uterus, surrounding tissue called the parametrium, your cervix, a small portion of the upper part of your vagina and lymph nodes from your pelvis are removed.
  • Trachelectomy: This procedure removes your cervix and the upper part of your vagina but not your uterus.
  • Pelvic exenteration: This is the same as a radical hysterectomy but includes your bladder, vagina, rectum and part of your colon, depending on where cancer has spread.

In its earliest stages, the disease is curable by removing the cancerous tissue. In other cases, your provider may perform a simple hysterectomy or a radical hysterectomy.

Some people may have a combination of treatments. Your provider may use radiation or chemotherapy to treat cancer that has spread or come back (recurred). Sometimes your provider will use radiation and chemotherapy before or after surgery.

Targeted therapy

Targeted drug treatment destroys specific cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. It works by targeting proteins that control how cancer cells grow and spread. As scientists learn more about cancer cells, they're able to design better-targeted treatments that destroy these proteins.


Immunotherapy uses medicine to stimulate your immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Cancer cells can also avoid being attacked by your immune system by sending off a signal. Immunotherapy helps to target these signals so the cancer cells can't trick your body into thinking it's a healthy cell.

Clinical trials are another treatment option. They're controlled research studies to test new treatments for cancer. Talk to your oncologist if you'd like to participate in a clinical trial.

Some people use alternative treatments like diet, herbs, acupuncture and other methods to supplement their cancer treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about alternative methods that claim to relieve cancer symptoms. Some may help, but others could be harmful.

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